Europe faces a harsh winter with Omicron variant

Saturday, 2021-12-18 17:41:51
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People wearing face masks walk in Nantes amid the COVID-19 outbreak in France. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO - The spread of the Omicron variant was the main topic discussed by European leaders at a recent summit in Brussels. Efforts to introduce a unified approach and maintain coordination across the bloc are regarded as the necessary measure to prevent the impacts of the pandemic on the whole region.

Predictions that Omicron will be the dominant variant in the EU in the coming months have brought the issue to the top priority on the EU’s agenda and raised concerns over a new health crisis. EU leaders have used the strongest words to warn about and call for bold measures to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has warned that Europe is facing an Omicron winter as experts suggest that it will be the new prevalent variant in Europe in January 2022. She stated that it is now particularly dangerous as vaccination is not uniform across the union even though many EU countries are leading in the vaccination rates. There are nine among the 27 EU member countries with vaccination rates below 60%.

The new outbreak has exerted severe economic impacts on many countries in Europe. Growth in the Eurozone in December have dropped to the lowest levels in the past nine months as businesses, especially those in Germany, are reeling from disrupted supply chains. Prices in Europe are spiralling with the consumer price index in November rising to 4.9% from 4.1% in the previous month.

In Germany, the largest economy in the Eurozone, inflation in November rose to a 29-year high. President of the European Central Bank has warned that if Germany tightens its monetary policy too soon it will affect the region’s economic recovery. Europe’s Purchasing Managers’ Index in December was 53.4, down from 55.4 in November and 59 in August.

The Omicron variant is considered a challenge to the EU’s growth prospects. The Irish Prime Minister stated that Omicron is of serious concern as its rapid transmission is putting pressure on society and the healthcare system, thus EU member countries need to coordinate better in many aspects. The Greek Prime Minister said that the EU will have to introduce new pandemic prevention measures besides accelerating vaccination, emphasising that this is a race against time.
EU countries must concentrate on finding out solutions to a series of issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, illegal immigration, and climate change. But the COVID-19 pandemic comes at the top as EU countries need to look for a common approach to deal with the challenges posed by the Omicron variant while intra-bloc unity is weakening substantially.

Countries such as Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Greece have tightened entry for travellers from other EU countries. Strict pandemic prevention measures are undermining rules on COVID-19 digital certificates that the EU has applied to the whole bloc since July to facilitate cross-border movement for fully vaccinated people.

Amid the gap in vaccination coverage between its member countries, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has stated that there is no time left to address vaccination loopholes. The EU Summit underlined the need to vaccinate all people against COVID-19 and the rollout of booster shots are extremely important as European countries will have to face a harsh winter with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.